THIS BOOK came to me in the mail. It is a blue pamphlet cum chap book. The outer cover looks as though it were made of carefully cut construction paper. A stylistic anchor has been cut into the front cover of the book, and the inner pages are plain paper. Opening the envelope covered my floor in a multi-colored shower of little paper anchors I'm still cleaning up off my carpet.
I'm not at all familiar with the publisher, NAPLITMAG.com, and a quick internet search provided me with an e-zine that looks to be supportive of poetry and alternative forms of literature.
I read the poems in this book three times, and I have to be honest: I didn't get it. There is a certain "If you're too bourgeois to understand it, I'm not going to bother to explain it to you." arrogance to these poems. I'm certainly willing to admit that I am imposing my own responses to the poems on J.D's intent, but it's hard not to.
I am a fan of free-verse and literary exploration, but this takes that concept to an extreme that I found more than a little annoying.
J.D. Nelson seems to be experimenting with a sound-bite-like format. The poems did not follow a narrative that I could see, nor did they connect to each other in any way that I could understand. WHEN THE SEA DIES read like a remote control flickering through channels just long enough to superimpose an image on the screen; there and gone. The images are not connected and there is no central theme or message. It's white noise that more often than not grates on the nerves and gets ignored.
I saw inspiration being drawn from TV, Rock Music and fast food, but not enough to tell me who J.D. is or what he/she is about. I couldn't find any approval or disapproval of the paradigms J.D. seemed to want to explore in WHEN THE SEA DIES and I ended reading it with a furrowed brow and the same irritation I experience when someone is trying entirely too hard to be clever. Many of these poems were nothing more than nonsense phrases strung together like mismatched beads on a string: "One Clark bar later. Abe Lincoln mask. Earth is Everywhere. A pyre so Boise can kill the Devil." (from the poem "WHEELIUS").
I tried to understand these poems with an initial read. Then I looked to cross-check meaning against the poem's title. On the third read I looked for acrostic codes and even thought about alpha-numeric substitutions. Eventually I gave it up as a bad job.
The only poem I thought met the criteria of "Poetic Exploration of Beauty and Truth" was "WHISKEY IN HIS ORANGE JUICE". Here I felt I was being given a glimpse of the real poet behind the noise, but even here there is a touch of "I'm smarter than you are," arrogance.
This collection was hard to define, but harder to read. There is promise here, but I think J.D. Nelson needs to decide what he is trying to say and find a clearer way to say it. Any message that is lost in translation has no value.